The cast of the classic sitcom "Boy Meets World" was largely made up of young, fresh faces. But joining them was one mature and very serious actor by the name of William Daniels.
As Mr. Feeny, Daniels was the adult among the kids: a school teacher and principal. And as Daniels revealed on the "Pod Meets World" podcast hosted by former co-stars Danielle Fishel, Will Friedle and Rider Strong, he regrets that he couldn't let loose back in the day like the younger cast members.
"What was that like to work with, basically, 12-year-olds?" Fishel, who played Topanga on the show and is now 41, asked on the latest episode of the podcast.
"Well, you all were young and having fun and I was much more serious," said Daniels, who also starred on such series as "St. Elsewhere" and "Knight Rider." "So I would hang out in my dressing room away from you all as you fooled around before the camera and then they said, 'Mr. Daniels, we’re ready for you,' and then I’d go out."
And once he was on set, he refrained from trying to tell the younger cast what to do. "I stayed away from being judgmental. I took whatever you gave me and I tried to work with it and it worked out very well," he said.
"I said, 'Do you help them?'" Daniels' wife, Bonnie Bartlett, who joined the cast toward the end of the show's run as school dean Lila Bolander and who was part of the podcast interview, chimed in. "He said, 'No, they're on my level. They're the same level I am. I can't tell them.'"
Clearly Daniels, now 95, was the grown-up on set, but he was a respected character who many of the students did take seriously. That was a requirement for his signing on to the series, as he shared elsewhere in the podcast.
Having originally turned down the role of Mr. Feeny, Daniels was asked by show creator Michael Jacobs for his reasoning. "I said, 'Well, that's a funny name and I don't really want to make fun of teachers,'" he explained. "'I respect them and they’re underpaid and all that.'"
Daniels recalled that Jacobs explained that Feeny was based on a "mentor of his when he was in high school," which meant "the plot would be treated with respect." So he signed on. The show ran from 1993-2000, and Daniels returned for a few episodes in the sequel "Girl Meets World," which aired from 2014-17.
Clearly, the overall experience was memorable. In 2017, Daniels published a memoir, "There I Go Again: How I Came to Be Mr. Feeny, John Adams, Dr. Craig, KITT, and Many Others."
Meanwhile, Feeny's role wasn't entirely based on the gravitas he brought to the story: Bolander and Feeny ended up having a romance as part of the show.
Still, it's a bit of a regret Daniels says he has, not to have loosened up a bit. "You guys were having a ball and I’d taken it very seriously," he said. "Frankly, I wish I were one of you."